‘Tis the Season for Boundaries
The holidays are upon us …and so is the stress of the season. This can be a time for joy and celebration for some, but for others, this can also be a time of tribulation.
With parties and gatherings with family and friends, anxiety can arise. Dodging awkward questions from your Aunt Susan or your coworker, Tom, can not only get old fast but can also bring up tension in ourselves.
The good news?
We don’t have to suffer through the same cycles as previous years. This year, consider setting clear boundaries with your family and friends to avoid conversations that put you in an uncomfortable place. After all, this should be a season that is merry and bright not scary and full of fright.
A tangible first step is to create a plan with phrases to say when met with personal questions you don’t want to answer.
Now, we know it’s not as easy as it sounds. For some, stating these boundaries can bring up feelings of guilt, especially if creating these spaces for yourself are new tools. Try practicing phrases with a trusted loved one or saying them in front of a mirror. Once they are practiced in your body, you will feel more confident in the moment (there’s some drama therapy for you!).
We also know that it can be difficult to find the words for these statements while also staying respectful. (Check out some suggested phrases below for a place to start!)
“I’m not comfortable answering that. Let’s switch to a different topic.”
“I understand why you’re curious. It’s just not something I want to discuss.”
“I would prefer not to answer that.”
“You know, my answer hasn’t changed since the last time you asked. I’d prefer if you didn’t bring it up again.”
“I’ve told you that I’m not comfortable answering this, please don’t bring it up again.”
“Thanks for asking, I’m not ready to answer that question though.”
“You know, it really negatively impacts me when you continue to ask me this question after I’ve asked you not to.”
Thanks, Amanda! Hopefully these are a helpful starting point as you make them your own.
After stating your needs, be prepared for more questions. Hopefully, most will hear and understand your boundary but, in some cases, there may be more resistance than acceptance. If you are not being heard, remember that YOU are in the driver’s seat and you need to do what is best for yourself in that moment. If you would like to explain why you have set that boundary, you absolutely may, but don’t feel you have to.
Other options would be to clearly state the boundary again or politely excuse yourself from the conversation. While being respectful, know that you are allowed to do what your body and mind need. Give yourself permission to create a safe space for yourself and don’t apologize for it.
You also have permission to give yourself time boundaries. Don’t want to be in an uncomfortable place all night? Let your party throwers know the exact time you have to give to them, whether it’s “I can only pop by for an hour” or “I have to head out by 7PM”, whatever your comfort level is, you are not required to be there the entire time or to stay the night. Remember, any amount of your presence is a present!
Creating your boundaries and practicing them beforehand is a great way to prep before the party. Things hardly go as planned, but when you have your own back, and have a chance to practice interactions, you will have comfortable options to choose from.
If having your own back sounds daunting, another possible prep option is to talk to another partygoer. Whether that be your significant other, close cousin or work friend, let them know your feelings about going to the party and the boundaries you are setting. It can help ease your mind knowing you have a support system there in the moment.
While preparing before a holiday event is important, it’s also important to decompress after these situations. Parties take a lot of energy for anyone, and it can be helpful to reflect on your experience. Reflect with some self-affirmations such as “I am so proud of myself for standing up for my needs.” and “I did the best I could with the tools that I had in the moment”. Reward yourself with these phrases and anything you like that celebrates you!
I hope these techniques are helpful in making your holiday festivities bright. Always remember that even though there may be a lot of traditions in place during this season, it is always ok to tweak them to make it the most festive and fun for yourself!
Have other phrases or boundary setting tips to share? Head over to our post on social media and join the conversation!
Get Professional Help with Center for Creative Arts Therapy
Have you been having a hard time setting boundaries? Are you looking for help but not sure where to turn? Center for Creative Arts Therapy can help.
You might feel like your boundaries will never be strong enough, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The challenging feelings you’re experiencing aren’t just something you need to learn to live with. Whether you need to just talk it out, or you’re just looking for some better coping strategies to overcome life's challenges using the arts as a tool, Center for Creative Arts Therapy can provide you with guidance and support.
Let the Center for Creative Arts Therapy help you set boundaries so you can feel empowered, starting today.
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